The emeritus title may be conferred on retired professors, associate professors, and administrative officers who are specially recommended to the board by Virginia Tech President Tim Sands. Nominated individuals who are approved by the board receive an emeritus certificate from the university.
A member of the Virginia Tech community since 1981, Hilu taught the university’s flagship undergraduate courses in plant taxonomy and plants and civilization. He also taught a number of other courses including a study abroad summer course in the Swiss Alps and Mediterranean coast of Italy.
His research has focused on molecular systematics and evolution of flowering plants and crops and on molecular differentatiation of genes that include the allergen genes in peanuts. Hilu authored and co-authored 116 peer-reviewed publications with a 5,926-citation record, and has been involved in approximately $7 million in federal, state, university, and foundation grant funds that included the National Science Foundation’s Assembling the Tree of Life program and the Virginia Tech HokieSpeed supercomputer grants.
He also served on the editorial boards for the South American Journal Kurtziana, the Journal of Systematics and Evolution, and the international review board of the Annals of Botany.
Hilu held a Fulbright scholarship to train graduate students and faculty in techniques of DNA fingerprinting at University of Bin Zuhor, Morocco, and also used U.S. Agency for International Development grants to establish a molecular lab at Egerton University, Kenya, to promote the breeding of their native crop finger millet.
He was an invited scientist at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation in Australia, the departments of genetics at Cairo University, University of Florence, Italy, and Estação Agronómica Nacional, Oerias, Portugal. He has organized symposia and presented more than 140 invited research talks at symposia and society meetings in the United States and in some 20 countries around the world.
During his career at Virginia Tech, Hilu mentored 24 graduate students, six post-doctoral appointees, and approximately 60 undergraduate students involved in research projects. He won teaching awards from the Department of Biological Sciences, the College of Science, and was a College of Science nominee for the university William E. Wine Award.
Hilu received his bachelor’s degree and master’s degree from the University of Baghdad and a Ph.D. from the University of Illinois.